In George Orwell’s essay, “Shooting an Elephant,” chaos arises in Burmese town following the escape of an elephant, resulting in the death of an innocent man. A British soldier becomes conflicted about whether he should shoot the elephant or let it live. The general public pressures him to shoot the elephant, but deep inside, he knows that it is not right or justified to kill the animal.
But the elephant doesn't deserve to die.
Orwell argues that imperialism has led to a cycle of oppression among the colonized, causing harm to both the people and the colony; with the high expectations and standards of society, individuals face pressure when deciding whether or not to do the right thing.
Hurry and kill it!
Towards the end of the essay, the Orwell is pressured by the Burmese citizens, in which he states, “The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly” (Orwell).
Orwell feels indecisive of whether or not to shoot the elephant. Although it had killed a man and destroyed the terrain, it had done so to escape for its own personal benefit. He goes on to explain that his role in the British Empire is to take control and manage the chaos. However, with this, he considers if the elephant had a choice or if it had done so for no reason.
It is clear that the elephant is representative of the restrained British colony; it had been chained down by a higher power and caused mass chaos to escape its oppressive owner. Imperialism led to an increase in power for the Europeans, but took away Burma’s agency and individuality.
In today’s society, it is evident that expectations and standards have caused an immense amount of pressure on all people of all ages. These standards seem to increase with time and force individuals to merge into a specific image. For instance, social media sets standards on how people should act or appear. Oppression will always be present in society, whether it be between social classes, races, or cultures, and can only be reduced over time.